I want to bring to your attention this beautiful verse form the letter to the Philippians: “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make your requests known to God.”
This past weekend marked the start of the traditional English harvest festival: a time when that year’s harvest would be celebrated with food and communal thanksgiving. This is the same idea as behind the American Thanksgiving celebration: a time of thanksgiving for safety and plentiful food supplies for the long winters. As the name says, thanksgiving is central to the celebration.
Thanksgiving is also an emphasized, recurring theme for us as Christians.
Colossians 3:15 says, ‘And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
A theme throughout the psalms is thanksgiving, with Psalms 136 opens the first three verses with the phrase “O give thanks”.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus fur you.”
In almost every letter he wrote that we have recorded, the Apostle Paul gave thanks for the churches he was writing to: Romans 6:17, 1 Corinthians 1:4, Colossians 1:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:2, and 2 Thessalonians 1:3 to name a handful. Evidently this is an important theme of instruction and example: thanksgiving not only for the harvest and provision of food but even more so for the provision of Christ’s death and resurrection for our salvation.
As you may have guessed from the opening passage, thanksgiving is not what I plan to really emphasize. Rather, the instruction shown us in Matthew 9:37 and similarly in Luke 10:2: pray earnestly that laborers may be sent out into the harvest.
I realized this striking connection between the harvest festivals and thanksgiving celebrations and the call to pray for the spiritual harvest in the Word. Whilst we celebrate and remember God’s faithfulness and love in blessing us in so many numerous ways, we should also consider the spiritual harvest all around to be gathered in. This is not to be a call to mission service or an appeal for more students attending Bible College or Seminary, but an encouragement to pray. Prayer for those already abroad in the field, prayer for new servants going abroad, prayer for our pastors at home, whoever it may be praying. I mentioned earlier Paul’s emphasis on thanksgiving, well similarly in nearly all his letters he mentions his prayers for the churches he ministered to.
For this reason, I love Philippians 4:6 “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make your requests known to God.” It perfectly summarizes our prayer life as it is supposed to be: in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make your requests known to God. It shows the close link between prayer and thanksgiving: we cannot make our prayers known to God without giving thanks as well! I know that when a friend asks what they can be praying for we can easily provide our list of requests and concerns, but when it comes to something we are thankful for all too often do we draw a blank sheet; we cannot think of anything. Of course prayer important and all those requests are well founded and are truly points of need, but how sad it is that we are so prone to give a list of prayer requests but cannot think of anything to be thankful for!
As Christians we should be the most thankful and joyful people in the world, but so often I find we are filled with despair. We have so much to be thankful for and yet cannot bring anything to mind. Maybe this is a problem of being afraid of appearing too righteous; it certainly is for myself for a large proportion of the time. But even the seemingly smallest of things to be thankful for is still a blessing form God!
So I would encourage every one of you reading this to be thankful. Whether in your own personal prayer and devotion time or publicly at youth group or prayer meeting, be thankful!
Your brother in Christ,
Matthias Hargrave (17) is the Executive Director at TPS Chapel and is a senior at The Potter's School